WASHINGTON, D.C. — Connor McMichael has been waiting for his moment with the Washington Capitals, and it’s finally here.
After being a healthy scratch for the first two games of the season, McMichael will be in the lineup on Tuesday against the Colorado Avalanche. He’ll play on the third line with T.J. Oshie and Conor Sheary as the team continues to fill Nicklas Backstrom’s void.
“This is Connor’s chance to go in and just play his game. He doesn’t have to be Nick. He just has to go in and play his game and help our team be successful,” head coach Peter Laviolette said.
McMichael cracked the opening night roster with Lapierre, and the two have been interchanging at 3C and competing for that permanent spot in the lineup. Lapierre played the first two games of the season after a standout performance in the preseason.
In the meantime, the 20-year-old has been continuing to practice hard, staying in touch with the coaching staff and being ready to play when his number’s called.
“[The coaching staff’s] been great with me. You know, just be patient,” McMichael said. “I mean, I’m still [a] young player, so they’re basically saying my time will come, you just to keep pushing and working hard.
“[I’m] just staying ready, staying in shape,” McMichael added. “Obviously playing games, you’re working pretty hard, and just getting extra reps in practice when you’re not playing, it’s pretty important to stay up to the pace and the speed, so that’s kind of what I’ve been doing.”
McMichael made his NHL debut last season and also spent a lot of time up with the team’s taxi squad. The 2019 first-rounder also put on a show at the AHL level in his rookie campaign with Hershey, leading the Bears with 27 points in 33 games.
READ MORE ON WHN: Samsonov Getting His Shot, Will Start For Capitals Against Avalanche
So far, his transition to the pros from juniors has been seamless. He trained alongside stars like Connor McDavid and Steven Stamkos over the summer and shined during rookie and training camp, easily able to fit in and keep up with the speed of the game. He also got time on the top line left wing while Alex Ovechkin was out with a lower-body injury.
“Just skating with the real team every day, just being around the guys, it makes you feel more a part of the team,” McMichael said. “The practices are a lot more faster-paced than they were last year just being on the taxi squad with just a handful of guys. I think I’ll have a lot more better preparation.”
McMichael faces a tall task against the Avalanche, who won the Presidents’ Trophy last season and will have Nathan MacKinnon back in the lineup after two negative COVID-19 tests. Mikko Rantanen, Andre Burakovsky, Cale Makar and Darcy Kuemper are just a few of the other stars making up the roster that packs quite the punch. It’ll be a vital game for McMichael to get in, as he’ll look to keep up with the pace and play well in both zones. And, if he can succeed, McMichael could secure a longer stay in the lineup.
“I think I’ll be able to do great on that line,” McMichael said of skating with Oshie and Sheary. “Like I said earlier, we had some pretty good chemistry in practice. So I’m excited.”
The rookie also has a goal song at the ready if he lights the lamp, and he’s looking forward to finally revealing it.
“Hopefully you guys will find out [tonight],” he laughed.